Book Recalls Charms of the Ultimate Hostess

Book Recalls Charms of the Ultimate Hostess

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to read more, I heartily recommend "Popovers and Candlelight", a new can't-put-it-down book by Marcia Biederman (SUNY Press, $19.95).

It is the story of the rise and fall of Patricia Murphy, a restaurateur who truly captured the imagination of the social and traveling public. The book is subtitled: "Patricia Murphy and the Rise and Fall of a Restaurant Empire".

Married to Captain James Kiernan, she had a huge following in Palm Beach, with a social calendar that included her role as a chairwoman of the Palm Beach Heart Ball. She also owned Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurant in Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale.

She did it all with charm and with knowledge about how to be a popular hostess. Face-flattering candlelight was one of her signatures, and it always brings in a certain crowd, as do orchids, relish trays and what I thought were simply the best popovers in the world.

Patricia was one of our company's clients, and I worked with her on the decoration of her Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City way back in the late 1960's. She loved orchids - and she especially loved orchids in abundance. In fact, everything Patricia did was lush and ample in every way, including her broad, wise smile.

When Patricia entertained, everything simply glided into place - and it seemed so easy for her, yet so difficult for others. I recall one day being with Patricia in her apartment when baskets of strawberries arrived to be served at a luncheon on her terrace overlooking Central Park. The berries were the biggest and most beautiful I had ever seen, and they had the sweetest taste- double WOW! She tasted and tested all before buying any fruit.

And she was just as involved in the selection of her furniture, draperies and upholstery. Her New York draperies and valances were fashioned in a very lustrous silk damask of rich red. Crystal chandeliers also were carefully chosen. They were as glamorous as their owner.

Patricia, as she is presented in "Popovers and Candlelight", sometimes brings to mind Mildred Pierce, the character Joan Crawford played in the movie of the same name. I believe Patricia's story has a dramatic narrative that could very well become a motion picture. But who would play her? An actress of special note, I hope. I can certainly see Meryl Streep in the part.

Enjoy the read!


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